Saturday, April 18, 2015

Tony Albert "Thou didst fall" at Sullivan Strumpf - 18 April

Tony Albert's career has gone from strength to strength, he is winning art prizes left, right and centre, he has just opened a major new public sculpture in Hyde Park and to top it all off he has the creme de la creme of the Sydney anonymous art blogging scene turning up to his latest solo show at Sullivan + Strumpf on its opening day!

S+S's (gee I'm using a lot of S's today) ground floor has the big works on show.  There is a large bronze sculpture (which is actually a miniature version of the Hyde Park bullets, but it is still pretty big).  There are some overscale anzac'esque mixed media assemblages which to me just screamed "institutional buyer", mainly due to the size (one was 550cm long, the other 270cm high) but also due to the six figure price.  I really loved some of the components of these assemblages, especially the camouflage 'rosettes' with vintage aboriginal badges at the centre.  My favourite works, as is often the case, were in the upstairs gallery.  Here the star of the show was Wake Up (pictured top).  This is the classic aboriginalia inspired mixed media work with the military twist that has the trademark text included.  That is, this work ticks all the boxes you'd want as a collector and no surprise it has been picked up.  If $48k gives you sticker shock (and make you kick yourself for not picking up a Tony Albert watercolour from Jan Manton when they were selling for 3 figures 6 years ago) then Tony has a few prints of the work that he has embellished in different way at a more friendly price for younger collectors.  I really like how Tony does this, takes a print and makes it special through re-work.  A few punters agreed with me as these had all sold pre-opening.  What I think makes Tony such an interesting artist to follow is that he is always trying new things.  What do I really mean by that?  Well certain artists in Australia (and globally really) do get 'stuck' in a certain style - you look and it and can name the artist straight away.  Tony is always evolving but referencing back, velvets, photography, watercolours and now these very large (150 x 200cm and up) acrylics on canvas (you can see them in the background of the middle photo).  They are based on old WWII era cartoons but they have some images painted on top, which again reminded me of the watercolour series I saw all those years ago.  Now if you look to the foreground of that middle photo you will see some fabulous cabinetry.  This bullet-legged cabinet contains an art diary that Tony kept whilst doing the war memorial commission.  I hear it is going to the City of Sydney.  Lastly, but not leastly, I looked through the Green Skin series of works where Tony has daubed over some collected images.  I loved these and to be honest was quite partial to some of the vintage comics he has transformed.  Hmmm, what is that art budget again ...

Points:  I am giving 3 points to Wake Up.  I also like its circular shape, which on further thought is reminiscent of an old Anzac day badge.  It also recalls the target shape that Tony uses throughout his work.  2 points will go to the war diary cabinet (hopefully City of Sydney will have this on show somewhere so we can come back and study it better).  1 point will go to one of the Green Skin series (of them all I would choose the target above).

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